Home News Local News Seniors search for free tax help locally this year

Seniors search for free tax help locally this year

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The state’s decision not to offer free tax assistance in Roswell this year has left many searching for alternatives, according to volunteers and providers who work with low-income earners and the elderly. This photo is from a 2013 federal tax assistance program. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Some of Roswell’s elderly and low-income residents have become accustomed to receiving free tax preparation assistance with their state and federal income tax filings each year, but many will have to go online, travel to other cities or pay for help this year as the situation stands now.

In previous years, the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department offered a free tax assistance program at various locations in the state, including in Roswell, but the program is not offered this year.

A spokesperson for the department did not respond to questions by press time and a call center employee said that he could not explain why the program stopped.

Other organizations also offered assistance locally in prior years, but senior volunteers and providers say such programs aren’t happening this year.

After hearing of the need, Chaves County JOY Centers lined up a volunteer for a couple of weekends, but appointments with that professional and her assistant are already booked.

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“We were in the same boat as everyone else in that we couldn’t find anyone who was offering assistance,” said JOY Centers Executive Director Monica Duran.

She said that staff with the Roswell center made several calls locally as well as to national groups with local offices before finally succeeding in lining up a local tax preparer to assist seniors this coming weekend and next. Their volunteer can help only about 36 people each weekend, with the JOY Centers saying many people have been put on a waiting list.

Duran said the JOY Centers will provide a meeting spot if another qualified volunteer wants to help.

Judy McDonald, a retired educator and a local volunteer with the Senior Circle, said she received questions from several seniors and called everywhere she could think of — including nonprofits, state and federal government offices and other groups — to ask if tax assistance would be available.

“I took it upon myself to call around,” she said, “but I came up against a big wall on that one.”

Other than the JOY Centers, the only other programs known to offer free help at physical locations this filing season are doing so in other cities.

Tax Help New Mexico, a partnership of the Central New Mexico Community College and the United Way, is offering free assistance until early April for people earning less than $54,000 or who are 65 or older. But the closest locations this year are either Carlsbad or Clovis.

The Tax-Aide program of the American Association for Retired Persons Foundation helps low- or moderate-income people and people 50 or older. But the nearest physical locations for that program in 2018 are in Ruidoso, Lovington, Portales, Alamogordo or Hobbs.

For those willing to take the risks involved with online systems, the Tax Help New Mexico program is referring people to a website, myfreetaxes.com, a partnership with H&R Block and the United Way.

That offers free tax preparation software, filing and chat advice to anyone earning less than $66,000 a year. The program also is partnering this year with Cricket Wireless stores to offer in-store help on certain days, but the closest location is Albuquerque.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.